With Freddie Donroe a casualty of the war in 1944, my grandmother, Dora Barbaresi, was left a widow with their infant daughter. So, how is it that I carry the name Donroe two generations later? Let me explain.
After a long period of grieving, Freddie’s brother, Albert Donroe, stepped in to ask Dora to marry him. Albert was actually the Best Man at Dora and Freddie’s wedding (he's standing to the right of Freddie in the picture of the wedding party). In my mind, I’ve concocted all manner of noble reasons for this proposal. To provide for Dora the way his brother would have wanted. To bring up his brother’s child as his own. To help keep Freddie’s memory alive. It may have been all of those things, but, let’s face it, she was also cute.
In an attempt to pick up the pieces of her life, Dora wed Albert and, in doing so, retained Donroe as her married name. So, Freddie wasn't my grandfather — Albert was. That marriage turned out to be, um, less blissful. But the union did produce two sons.
This is my dad, who was born in 1948. He was named Freddie in memory of the late Freddie who would have, in effect, been his uncle. Indeed, as adults, there is a striking resemblance between the two. His brother, Eddie, was born six years later.
As family lore has it, when my dad was born, the doctor declared him to be not only the most beautiful baby in the nursery, but also the most beautiful baby the doctor had ever seen over the course of his career, and maybe even in the history of the world.
Albert was very proud of his newborn son and was swaggering around by the nursery window when another proud papa and his entourage arrived on the scene. That father was singing the praises of his newborn son, but he was pointing at baby Freddie. Albert turned around and said to him, in no uncertain terms, “Who the hell do you think you are? That’s my son. That scrawny one over there is yours.”
And maybe now my dad will stop complaining about how I never write about him on my blog, anymore. Here’s a manly recipe to boot.
Nonni serves these with her lasagna and manicotti. They are the best. There’s no convincing me otherwise.
½ lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 handful fresh breadcrumbs
1 handful Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Using your hands, mix together all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll into round balls. Heat oil in a large frying pan, and cook, turning meatballs often to maintain their shape, until browned and cooked through.
Dora [Barbaresi] Donroe
Next Recipe: Pignoli Cookies
(Previously: World War II)